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9th Annual NSPN Downeast Paddle Retreat, Bar Harbor, September 14-7 ( well, actually, Sept. 13-15)


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The retreat was in its 9th year,   and had been scheduled for Thursday afternoon through Sunday, Sept 14-17,  but as things turned out, Hurricane Anne was traveling north along the east coast, and struck the Bar Harbor area on Saturday, right in the middle of the planned event, disrupting everything.  Some 24 people had RSVP’d for this event at one time or another, and many had made reservations at nearby hotels and campgrounds, especially Rose Eden Cottage Resort, where the event was based for the second year. As the date approached, we were communicating by group PM on the message board, and early in the week it was evident that there would be significant precipitation and weather during the event. By Tuesday or Wednesday it was clear that the hurricane would strike the area on the weekend, and weekend advisories and notifications began to appear : Acadia National Park would be closing all campgrounds and some of its roads, and Hadley Point Campground , where several were staying,  was closing for the whole weekend.  Weather would be decent until Friday evening, and Saturday would be Hurricane Day,  obviously a paddling  write-off,  throwing the whole enterprise into question for many,  especially those  staying in campgrounds and with tricky  travel plans .  So this planned event with its Friday, Saturday and Sunday paddling days  evolved into a two-day paddling affair, with paddling days moved up to Thursday and Friday, after which we would either get out of Dodge, hunker down in our cottages for the hurricane, or just take it as it comes and see what  might happen . By Thursday some 11 had cancelled for a variety of reasons, mostly  the weather forecast and uncertain driving conditions , and ultimately 12 attended, with 10 of us paddling on one or both days:  a group of seven paddled on Thursday, and  a group of eight  on Friday. For my part I had reserved a cabin at Rose Eden for the week, so I was resolved to stay through the weekend, come what may. 

By Wednesday evening , eight us were in the area already.; so around 6 PM five of us  gathered at Rose Eden, and repaired to a nearby barbecue joint for dinner and patched together a plan for Thursday’s paddle. There was general agreement to avoid whatever conditions were already brewing on the ocean-facing south side of Mount Desert Island and to confine our paddling to tame ventures on the north side of the island, so we fixed on a one-way trip from Bartlett Landing on the west side of MDI, paddling northward back to  Hadley Point on the very top of the island.  This involved some car shuttling fancy footwork , but with southwest winds and a midday high tide this route would give us a fair wind and tide all day long.
(thanks Pablo, Marcy and Janice for photos and videos)

So, after spotting three cars at Hadley Point, seven of us in four cars assembled at the public boat launch at Bartlett Landing,and launched around 9:20, paddling in the rain at a very relaxed pace, , following the coast pretty closely to enjoy the unspectacular but  very pleasant northwest side of MDI . The rains seemed to have the effect of  tamping down the ocean into a velvety carpet, so it was a smooth mellow ride,  and the recent rains had enlarged the many small streams into little waterfalls where they met the ocean , water also cascading  down many modest rock formations here and there.  Some of us explored Squid Cove a bit, and after rounding High Head at the top of Bartlett Sound we explored the islands around Indian Head, where we stopped on a small gravel beach for an early lunch.

From there , we sort-of crossed Northwest Cove and reached the narrows  about hour and a half after high tide, where the beginnings of the ebb tide under the bridge gently whooshed us through the Narrows.
We ambled onward along the south end of Thomas Island , returning to Hadley Point to begin the task of retrieving three cars back at Bartlett landing, before re-convening at Rose Eden  for  dinner  and a Friday planning session at C-Ray lobster  & clam shack,  right next door to Rose Eden. 


For Friday, we decided to try an entirely new paddling venue up at the northern end of Frenchmans  Bay,  from the village of Sorrento. The trip would require a 40 minute drive, but we would get to explore a new area, even further from any ocean conditions that might make us skittish , and would also be a convenient  locale  for five of the participants hitting the road at the end of the day. 


So, eight of us met at Sorrento, launched  at @ 10  AM from a handy beach next to the town dock, and paddled as a group from Sorrento Harbor southeasterly where Flanders Bay is formed by  a chain of not-small islands: Preble, Calf , and Stave,   extending southward towards Jordan and Ironbound Islands , and the Porcupines. Some wanted to paddle further than others and a few people were hoping to hit the road by 2PM-ish, so after a lunch stop on the east side of Stave Island we split into two groups, with four of us heading back to Sorrento and the other four continuing  further southward before turning around. Our group crossed back to Calf Island, then sought the lee  (N winds today  around 10 kts) of Preble Island’s south side, and slithered back into Sorrento Harbor.

The other group continued south to tiny Yellow Island , just off of Jordan Island’s north end  , and returned along the west side of Stave & Calf  islands before ducking  back into Sorrento Harbor and our put in.


As a debrief , I think  we found the village of Sorrento quite hospitable as a launch site,  with friendly locals showing us where to plant our cars. Our chain of islands were all very pleasant, with distant views of Acadia hills and mountains.  I liked the whole paddle, and whetted my appetite for future exploration in this new area.   We didn’t quite get to Bean Island , a new Frenchmans Bay Conservancy refuge, and I imagined two other possible  future trips,  1) a one-way between  Sorrento and Bar Harbor  (if car shuttling could be worked out: I think I have a one-way paddle fetish) and  2) a tidal-planning  circumnav. of Crabtree Neck , timing   the passage on the Sullivan River   at Sullivan Falls and the narrow squiggly Carrying  Place Cove for slack before ebb.  Any takers?  



Our paddling likely done,  back at Rose Eden, we gathered at the largest  & best equipped cottage  and salvaged our planned Saturday potluck , with steamer clams, a casserole,  various other goodies and adult beverages.  The next morning  we woke up to the hurricane,  spent  the morning over breakfast  assessing the conditions outside , and by late morning judge that things were not too severe to venture out for a look -see, as we all wanted to take a gander at the ocean . Four of us drove  in one car (with no kayaks on top) over to Schooner head  near Sand Beach and then got close to Otter Cliffs and Thunder Hole by a back road, (the Park Loop road was closed but there were several dozen intrepid storm watchers out on foot) )  and strolled along to take a gander at the ocean meeting Otter Cliffs , which was…. pretty impressive. .


Rains soaked us , even with our rain gear, so we retreated to Rose Eden   for camp comfort ,   pot luck leftovers and a few additional goodies.  . 
The next day  was sunny and fair , and by midday  I was the only one left at Rose Eden,  but I actually   almost paddled with Megan , a new NSPNer who actually lives in Bar Harbor  but was only available toon Sunday; but while the Porcupines looked enticing,  w-nw winds of 10-15, gusts to 20 were forecast,  a bit much for me since my lower back was  aching badly, so we reluctantly agreed to leave it for another day. 
  Thanks to all who made this a nice trip, and especially offering good judgment, conditions assessment and weather forecasting. Sorry to have missed everyone who had to cancel, but glad tat everyone made good decisions. So,  despite all these twists and turns , enough folks expressed a desire return next year, so we’ll be scheduling the Retreat once again on the same weekend in mid September, and I’ll be looking forward to it as always. 








Edited by PeterB
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Glad to hear you were able to salvage two full days of paddling, Peter. Nice to know there's a new destination(s) in the NE direction. I seem to remember there may be a new MITA island up that way? I suspect the trip highlight might have been watching the pounding surf from the shoreline.

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